Saturday, August 25, 2012

MISBEHAVING ENGLISH ROYALTY ... Charleston's Connection

This week the entertainment media has been buzzing about the exploits of Prince Harry in Vegas, getting naked and generally acting like people who go to Vegas usually act. Prince Harry, third in line to the English throne, exposed the crown jewels while playing a game of billiards.

This is pretty mild stuff when you view Harry's behavior through a historic lens. After all, Harry is the son of Princess Diana, who is a direct descendant of Charles II, the namesake of Charleston, South Carolina. Charles II restored the Monarchy from the Puritan Oliver Crowell in 1660. When he died in 1685 (of syphilis) Charles had no legitimate heir, but he acknowledged a dozen bastards with seven different mistresses. Diana is descended from two of Charles' illegitimate sons, Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton and Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond.
Charles II and his Royal Scepter

Charles II was called "the Merry Monarch" due to his complete repudiation of Puritanism and his embrace of hedonism. He ran his court like a royal version of "ANIMAL HOUSE," filled with drinking, debauchery and all kinds of sexual excess. Nell Gwynne, one of the king's mistresses was called "a bold merry slut!" Charles referred to Nell and Louise (his other mistress) as his "protestant and Catholic whores." One of Charles' court members, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper (the namesake of Charleston's two rivers)  was called "the greatest whoremaster in England." 

Nell Gwynne
So Harry's behavior is just proof that the royal apple does not far from the tree. One can easily imagine Charles and his court playing naked billiards, or more! His brother, William, has lived a relatively quite, and scandal-free existence. His wedding to Kate Middleton was one of the important social events of 2011. However, a photograph taken during the post-wedding celebration in London reveals that maybe the prim and proper William and Kate have a little bit of the Merry Monarch blood running through their blue veins.

Long live the King!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Restoration of the English Throne ... Sets the Stage for the Founding of Charles Town

Under invitation by leaders of the English Commonwealth, Charles II, the exiled king of England, lands at Dover, England, to assume the throne and end 11 years of military rule.
Charles II
Prince of Wales at the time of the English Civil Charles fled to France after Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarians defeated King Charles I's Royalists in 1646. In 1649, Charles vainly attempted to save his father's life by presenting Parliament a signed blank sheet of paper, thereby granting whatever terms were required. However, Oliver Cromwell was determined to execute Charles I, and on January 30, 1649, the king was beheaded in London.
After his father's death, Charles was proclaimed king of England by the Scots and by supporters in parts of Ireland and England, and he traveled to Scotland to raise an army. In 1651, Charles invaded England but was defeated by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester. Charles escaped to France and later lived in exile in Germany and then in the Spanish Netherlands. After Cromwell's death in 1658, the English republican experiment faltered. Cromwell's son Richard proved an ineffectual leader, and the public resented the strict  Puritan of England's military rulers.
In 1660, in what is known as the English Restoration, General George Monck met with Charles and arranged to restore him in exchange for a promise of amnesty and religious toleration for his former enemies. On May 25, 1660, Charles landed at Dover and four days later entered London in triumph. It was his 30th birthday, and London rejoiced at his arrival. In the first year of the Restoration, Oliver Cromwell was posthumously convicted of treason and his body disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey and hanged from the gallows at Tyburn. The "twice-dead body" was then decapitated and placed on a spike in front of Westminster Hall.
Head of Cromwell

Charles II, in desperate need of money for the Treasury, supports the founding of the Carolina colony by granting a charter to eight Lords Proprietors. In April 1670, Charles Town is established as the first colony of Restoration England. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Ft. Sumter - Charleston harbor
Letter from Brig. Gen. P.G. T. Beauregard (Charleston) to Maj. Robert Anderson (Ft. Sumter) - APRIL 11, 1861: I am so ordered by my govt. - the Confederate States of America - to demand the immediate evacuation of Ft. Sumter. I await your reply.
P.G.T. Beauregard
Anderson’s reply: I regret that my sense of honor, and of my obligations to MY govt., prevent my compliance of your request. I shall await your first shot, and if you do not batter us to pieces, we shall be starved out in a few days.
Robert Anderson
3:30 a.m. APRIL 12, 1861, Col. James Chesnut delivers this message to Major Anderson: By authority of Brig. Gen. Beauregard, commanding the provisional forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that we will open fire our Batteries on Ft. Sumter in one hour of this time.
Ft. Johnson
4:30 am.
1st SHOT: fired from Ft. Johnson by Lt. James S. Farley – a signal shot.
2nd SHOT: from Ft. Johnson by Lt. W.H. Gibbes.

Edmund Ruffin

3rd SHOT: from Cummings Point fired by Virginian Edmund Ruffin.

And what were Charleston folks doing during the battle? Why, they were doing what Charleston people do best, PARTYING!!!!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

TODAY IN HISTORY, 1863: First Battle of Charleston Harbor

The First Battle of Charleston Harbor was an engagement near Charleston, South Carolina that took place April 7, 1863, during the Civil War. The striking force was a fleet of nine ironclad warships of the Union Navy including seven monitors that were improved versions of the original USS Monitor. A Union Army contingent associated with the attack took no active part in the battle. The ships, under command of Rear Admiral Samuel Du Pont, attacked the Confederate defenses near the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Navy Department officials in Washington hoped for a stunning success that would validate a new form of warfare, with armored warships mounting heavy guns reducing traditional forts.
Rear Admiral Du Pont
Du Pont had been given seven of the Passaic class monitors, the powerful New Ironsides, and the experimental ironclad Keokuk. Other naval operations were sidetracked as their resources were diverted to the attack on Charleston. 
New Ironsides
After a long period of preparation, conditions of tide and visibility allowed the attack to proceed. The slow monitors got into position rather late in the afternoon, and when the tide turned, Du Pont had to suspend the operation. Firing had occupied less than two hours, and the ships had been unable to penetrate even the first line of harbor defense. The fleet retired with one in a sinking condition and most of the others damaged. 
USS Keokuk
One sailor in the fleet was killed and twenty-one were wounded, while five Confederate soldiers were killed and eight wounded. After consulting with his captains, Du Pont concluded that his fleet had little chance to succeed. He therefore declined to renew the battle the next morning.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wade Hampton was born in Charleston, SC and grew up in one of the wealthy families in the South, receiving private instruction. When his father died in 1858 his son inherited a vast fortune, the plantations, and one of the largest collections of slaves in the South.
Wade Hampton

Although his views were conservative concerning the issues of secession and slavery, and he had opposed the division of the Union as a legislator, at the start of the Civil War, Hampton was loyal to his home state. He resigned from the Senate and enlisted as a private in the South Carolina Militia; however, the governor of South Carolina insisted that Hampton accept a colonel's commission, even though he had no military experience at all. Hampton organized and partially financed the unit known as "Hampton's Legion", which consisted of six companies of infantry, four companies of cavalry, and one battery of artillery. He personally financed all of the weapons for the Legion.

Despite his lack of military experience and his relatively advanced age of 42, Hampton was a natural cavalryman—brave, audacious, and a superb horseman. He was one of only two officers without previous military experience (the other being Nathan Bedford Forrest) to achieve the rank of lieutenant general in the Confederate service. On May 23, 1862, Hampton was promoted to brigadier general while commanding a brigade in Stonewall Jackson's division in the Army of Northern Virginia.


Post War, Hampton was offered the nomination for governor in 1865, but refused because he felt that those in the North would be suspicious of a former Confederate general seeking political office only months after the end of the Civil War. However, he did become a leading fighter against Radical Republican Reconstruction policies in the South, and re-entered South Carolina politics in 1876 as the first southern gubernatorial candidate to run on a platform in opposition to Reconstruction. Hampton, a Democrat, ran against Radical Republican incumbent governor Daniel Chamberlain in Charleston. Supporters of Hampton were called the Red Shirts and were known to practice violence. Due to their crude reputation and hopes of alleviating Union suspicion, Hampton used Grace Piexotto's "The Big Brick House", a prominent brothel located at 11 Fulton Street, to assure complete privacy for the Red Shirts' meeting ground, which was mainly served as campaign headquarters.

The 1876 South Carolina gubernatorial election was one of the bloodiest (and closest) in the history of the state. Both parties claimed victory. For over six months, there were two legislatures in the state, both claiming to be authentic. Eventually, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Hampton was the winner of the election. President Rutherford B. Hayes stated that "the whole Army of the United States would be inadequate to enforce the authority of Gov. Chamberlain." Hayes then ordered the evacuation of Federal troops in South Carolina. Thus the election of the first Democrat in South Carolina since the end of the Civil War signified the end of Reconstruction in the South.

In 1890, Hampton's niece Caroline, an operating room nurse, married the father of American surgery, William Halsted. It was because of her skin reaction to surgical sterilization chemicals that Halsted invented the surgical glove the previous year.

Hampton died in Columbia in 1902 and is buried there in Trinity Cathedral Churchyard.


Statue of Wade Hampton at South Carolina State House

In Margaret Mitchell's novel, Gone With The Wind, Scarlet O'Hara's first husband, Charles Hamilton, served in Hampton's regiment, dying of measles only seven weeks later. As it was fashionable (according to  Mitchell) to name baby boys after their fathers' commanding officers, Scarlett's son by Charles is therefore named Wade Hampton Hamilton.
In the North and South trilogy by John Jakes, the character Charles Main serves with Hampton's cavalry throughout the Civil War.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Provincial Congress of South Carolina approved a new constitution and government on this day in 1776. The legislature renamed itself the General Assembly of South Carolina and elects John Rutledge as president, Henry Laurens as vice president and William Henry Drayton as chief justice.
John Rutledge
South Carolina took this action towards independence from Great Britain four months before the Continental Congress declared independence and five months before the Declaration of Independence. Rutledge possessed quasi-dictatorial powers as president and commander in chief of the new state. In 1778, he resigned the post in protest over proposed changes to the state constitution. Rawlins Lowndes took over the presidency and instituted the changes Rutledge found objectionable. The executive power changed from a presidency to a governorship and veto power was taken away from the executive. The Senate became a popularly elected body, and the Church of England no longer held status as the state church. After the changes had been made, Rutledge was re-elected governor in 1779, a post he held until 1782. Rutledge lost much of his personal wealth during the British siege of Charleston, but survived to see the new century dawn before his death in 1800.
Henry Laurens only served as vice president of South Carolina until June 1777. He was elected to the Continental Congress in January of that year and became the president of Congress under the Articles of Confederation on November 1, 1777, a position he held until December 9, 1778. Beginning in 1780, Laurens served 15 months of imprisonment in the Tower of London after being taken captive on a Congressional mission to Holland. 

Tower of London / Henry Laurens' Room

When Cornwallis was captured by George Washington at Yorktown, the British offered an even prisoner exchange - Cornwallis for Laurens - which the Continental Congress accepted. Laurens spent the last years of his life in retirement on his plantation, where he lived until his death in 1792.


In Charleston, change is often a four letter word. More than any American city, Charleston guards its heritage with a passion. In 1861, South Carolina, led by Charleston men, attempted to start its own country in order to preserve its way of life. During the early part of the 20th century, while the rest of America was embracing the future, Charleston was focused on the past.
Rainbow Row, c. 1900
   The Powder Magazine (17 Magazine St) was preserved; Susan Pringle Frost began purchasing the slums along eastern Tradd Street for renovation, creating Rainbow Row; Congress authorized the transfer of the Old Exchange Building (122 East Bay St.) to the Daughters of the American Revolution; the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings was established; the Joseph Manigault House opened as the first house museum and the Heyward-Washington House was purchased by the Charleston Museum.

      In 1922 a petition was sent to Charleston City Council signed by thirty-seven white residents around Church Street and St. Michael’s Alley which called for the immediate evacuation of the all-black residents of Cabbage / “Catfish” Row. The petition detailed the unsavory behavior of the black residents that included prostitution of black women with white sailors, knife and gun fights, unsanitary conditions and “the most vile, filthy and offensive language.”
Gershwin & Heyward
     In the spring of 1924, Dubose Heyward, founder of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, began working on “a novel of contemporary Charleston.”  Heyward had a reputation across America as a serious and talented poet and Charleston society was rightly proud of their native son. The perception was that his forthcoming novel of would be a drawing room drama, or a comedy of manners. It was going to be about them. Imagine their shock when the book, Porgy, was a lyrical folk novel about the Gullahs of Charleston and became very successful. And then it became the Gershwin "Negro folk opera", Porgy and Bess.

Flappers doing the "Charleston."
For many white Charlestonians, the ubiquitous presence of Gullahs was as common as palmetto trees – visible on each street but rarely acknowledged, just part of the scenery. The city had spent 70 years after the War trying to preserve white Charleston heritage. But now, the Gullah heritage was what most Americans associated with the city. The dance called the "Charleston" became the symbol of the Roaring 20s and Heyward's story of a doomed love affair between a black prostitute and beggar became a cultural event. 
The Chicago Tribune wrote: 
In a world of change, Charleston changes less than anything …. Serene and aloof, and above all permanent, it remains a wistful reminder of a civilization that elsewhere has vanished from earth.
 The success of Porgy and Bess instigated another Yankee invasion, and this time they brought cash. With the Depression gripping America, Charleston was grateful for any money it could earn. The mostly pre-Revolutionary residential area of Heyward’s former neighborhood – Church and Tradd Streets - became a haven for tourist shops, catering to the much-disdained, but much-needed Yankee trade. Ladies of “quality” from Charleston’s “first families,” ran coffee houses and tea shops and served as “lady guides” on walking tours down the cobblestone streets and brick alleys.Their version of Charleston was completely focused on the glory days of the past, discussing “servants” not slaves, architecture not secession. They were trying to preserve, or more realistically, resurrect, what Rhett Butler described in Gone With The Wind as “the calm dignity life can have when it’s lived by gentle folks, the genial grace of days that are gone.”

     Led by two community boosting mayors, John P. Grace and Thomas Stoney, this refocusing of history has finally reached into the 21st century. The 1930s preservation and tourism campaign solidified Charleston’s image as “America’s Most Historic City” and now in the 21st century, it is the darling of the upscale international tourist trade.
Kendra Hamilton wrote:
The ironies of the situation are compelling. Charleston becomes daily more segregated, the chasm between rich and poor ever deeper and wider, as in the salad days before the war. The tourist-minded city fathers become daily more ingenious at smoothing down the ugly truths of the city’s history so as to increase its appeal to people whose impressions of the South owe more to Scarlett O’Hara than Shelby Foote. And yet, the city’s most readily identifiable cultural emblems – from Porgy to “the Charleston” – have African-American roots.
Porgy House
     During the 1930s and 40s DuBose Heyward’s former home at 76 Church Street became the Porgy Shop, which sold antiques, china curios and other fine furnishings that had nothing to do with the opera, the play, or the novel. It certainly had nothing in common with its namesake, a poor, violent black beggar turned into a folk hero. In another ironic twist, the “first families” of Charleston who made money from this skewed, picturesque version of history, did not even allow a version of their most famous commodity to be performed in its home setting until 1970, thirty-four years after its debut. 

Charleston learned is was easier to protect its buildings than its social and cultural heritage. An ordinance may preserve a historic house, but it cannot alleviate the historic truth. During the 21st century Charleston fully embraced its rich cultural African heritage, mainly due to the explosion of the national popularity of southern food and "low country cuisine." Southern food is, without a doubt, African food.  

However, there is also the gradual deterioration of another one of Charleston’s longest traditions – merriment! In 1989, Hurricane Hugo blew out the Spanish moss and blew in the insurance money (and upscale tourists.) From that moment Charleston began its march toward becoming a tourism-centric culture with a heavy concentration on luring the sophisticated traveler. The less gentile aspects of the city have been incrementally discarded, and the city enforces their "merriment" rules with some inconsistency. 
  • No more street parties on St. Patrick’s Day. The only approved street “parties” these days are politically correct cultural events like the Art Walk (even then you can’t carry your topless plastic cup from site-to-site,) the MOJO Arts Fesitval and various SPOLETO and Piccolo Spoleto happenings.
  • No smoking in ANY building in Charleston. For a city with world class restaurants and bars, the non-smoking ordinance is not only heavy-handed, it is elitist. The only place to currently smoke indoors is the cigar bar Club Habana on Meeting Street. After the passing of the non-smoking ordinance Habana was allowed to operate under a grandfathered-in clause, but now the club is in the process of losing its lease and being squeezed out of the ever-more bland and gentrified City Market.
  • Tailgating at Citadel football games is allowed 2 hours before and 2 hours after the game.  However, fireworks at 11 pm after a baseball game in a park named after the current mayor(and close to the football stadium and a residential neighborhood) is allowed.  
  • Open-container laws are strictly enforced in Charleston's historic district and in the Market. However, during the internationally promoted Food & Wine Festival, patron are allowed to walk about Marion Square with open cups of wine. 
By the 1980s all of the “adult clubs,” “massage parlors” and by-the-hour hotels that used to be located around the Market area were pushed to the extreme northern end of the city and replaced by more and more restaurants with similar menus and upscale shops selling merchandise more New York than southern. 

During the 1990s, as the price of real estate began to rise in the downtown area, a new crop of self-important persnickety puritans arrived and have slowly strangled the real social character of Charleston, with the support of the city officials. After all, we can’t allow blue collar drunks on the streets of the Holy City having fun, can we? 

Well, yes we can, and we always have. Charleston is called the Holy City due to its number of churches, not due to the behavior of the locals. Maybe if these persnickety puritans had taken the time to learn the “real” heritage of their new city BEFORE they decided to purchase that million dollar home, things might be different. 
The author of this blog driving a carriage on Easter Sunday with a group of cross-dressing "Easter Bunnies."

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Wayward Judge Waring: Civil Rights Hero

The Charleston African American Preservation Alliance has selected a list of sites worthy of Historic Markers to commemorate Civil Rights Era Sites. Please join them in protecting the history of Charleston; Vote here for sites to receive Historic Markers.  

This following is the story of one of Charleston's most infamous civil rights figures, Judge Waties Waring.

On February 12, 1950, the South Carolina House of Representatives introduced a resolution to appropriate funds to purchase one-way tickets for Judge Waring and his wife, Elizabeth, to “any place they desired provided that they never return to the state.” 

Judge Waties Waring
When J. Waties Waring, a federal judge with strong ties to secessionist politics, met Detroit native Elizabeth Avery Hoffman in 1943, it was unthinkable that they would fall in love, divorce their spouses, and eventually help pave the way for America’s civil rights movement. It was also unthinkable that it would take place in Charleston, the shining jewel of the old South.  
But the couple did just that, relinquishing social standing and personal safety for the advancement of racial equality.

In 1945, federal judge Julius Waties Waring was enjoying the privileges that his legal career and his birthright as an eighth-generation Charlestonian afforded. He and his wife of 32 years, Annie Gammell, lived as part of Charleston's high society at their 61 Meeting Street house, and their life was the picture of propriety and decorum—at least to the public.
61 Meeting Street, home of Judge Waring
One evening in February, Waties came home and told Annie that he had fallen in love with another woman. She was Elizabeth Avery Hoffman, whom the Warings had met two years prior when Elizabeth and her husband, a Connecticut textile magnate, began wintering in Charleston. Cocktail parties and bridge games evolved into more clandestine meetings between Waties and Elizabeth, leading to a decision that would astonish Charleston. Waties asked Annie to move to Jacksonville, establish residency there, and grant him a divorce, as South Carolina did not allow the legal dissolution of marriage. Annie agreed, and soon thereafter Waties and Elizabeth were married.

The judge’s career suddenly veered dramatically to the left and most attributed the change to Elizabeth. Born into a wealthy, liberal family, she had always been a progressive on race issues. Elizabeth urged her husband to be more conscious of his power and influence and to look at issues of race with more scrutiny and compassion.

During this time, Judge Waring made some bold legal moves. He ended the segregated seating of jurors in his courtroom, and in October 1948, appointed John Fleming, a black man, as his bailiff. On July 12, 1947,  Waring presided over the federal court of the Eastern District of South Carolina in the case of Elmore v. Rice. The plaintiff, George Elmore, a black man, had not been permitted to vote in the Democratic primary, so he sued for the right. Judge Waring decided for Elmore. In his decision Waring stated: 
“private clubs  . . . do not vote and elect a president. It is time for South Carolina to rejoin the Union.  . [And] adopt the American way of conducting elections.”
George Elmore marker, Columbia, SC
His most dramatic ruling was the 1951 Briggs v. Elliot case, for which he declared the Clarendon County (SC) school board’s “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional, laying the groundwork for the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision.

Due to the outrage of that decision the Judge was forced to resign his membership from the South Carolina Society and the Hibernian Society, two of Charleston's oldest, most prestigious and all white private social clubs. 
S.C. Society Hall, Meeting Street, Charleston.
Shunned by white society as pariahs, the Warings invited black activists Septima Clark and Ruby Cornwell, into their home—and paid a costly price. Someone burned a cross on their lawn; abusive mail spilled from the letter box; telephone calls began and ended with slurs and condemnations. Through all of this, Elizabeth stood by her husband steadfastly. “I’m with you, start to finish,” she told him, urging him not to back away from controversial cases or unpopular decisions. She bore the brunt of the community’s scorn. It was Elizabeth—aka “the Witch of Meeting Street”—wagging tongues declaimed, who had wrecked a marriage and ruined Charleston with her destructive politics.

On Sunday, February 11, 1950, Elizabeth appeared on NBC's “Meet The Press” and complained that while other states had made progress in race relations, South Carolina remained “an exact replica of Russia.” She also called for intermarriage between whites and blacks.

The following Monday, the South Carolina House of Representatives introduced a resolution to appropriate funds to purchase one-way tickets for the judge and Elizabeth to ”any place they desired provided that they never return to the state.” The resolution was passed and sent to the state Senate. Judge Waring was in New York at the time and during a speech to a church group he stated: 
“We don't have a Negro problem in the South; we have a white problem. The white men . . . are obsessed with white supremacy. We do not live in the darkest Africa, we live in the darkest South Carolina.” 

When Waties retired in 1952, the couple moved to New York. “We were happy, the two of us,” he explained, but “you hate to be in a foreign land where you’re hated all the time, and that’s the way we felt we were.” From their apartment on Fifth Avenue, the Warings remained active in civil rights causes and stayed connected to political news in Charleston through their friends Cornwell and Clark.

Waties died in January 1968, Elizabeth following him just nine months later. Both were buried in Magnolia Cemetery, but not in the Waring family plot. Charles Kuralt of CBS News covered the burial and reported that “there are few white mourners here today.” Out of more than 200 people who attended the burial, less than a dozen were white. After his death, his daughter planted a magnolia sapling by his grave, but vandals uprooted the tree and cast it aside. Only nine people attended Elizabeth’s service.
Waties Waring headstone, Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston

Sunday, March 11, 2012


To read the entire story of Gordon Hall's strange life, purchase

Charleston has been described as America's most aristocratic city and it may well be, since aristocracy in Charleston has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with heritage, family and tradition. Charleston has always been a city that worships its past and is blindly proud of its Southern heritage. During the turbulent 1960s, Charleston was a city completely out of step with the times. Most people had yet to install air conditioning, in a city where today living without air conditioning is unfathomable.

In September 1962, a young English writer named Gordon Hall arrived in Charleston by chauffeured limousine. Gordon was accompanied by his parrot Marilyn, and his two pedigreed Chihuahuas - Miss Nellie and Annabel-Eliza. 

Gordon Langley Hall (and dogs)
Gordon moved to arts-oriented Charleston with money to burn and a plan to take the city by storm. He had written several books, including biographies of Princess Margaret, Jacqueline Kennedy, and a critically acclaimed volume on Mary Todd Lincoln. Gordon soon became part of the social elite in Charleston, throwing lavish parties and attending most of the exclusive social occasions in the city. He claimed friendship with Hollywood legends Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and writer Pearl S. Buck. His godmother was famed British actress Dame Margaret Rutherford, who lavished motherly affection on him.
Gordon and Bette Davis
At age sixteen Gordon decided to leave England. He took a job for a year as a teacher on an Ojibwa Indian reservation in Ontario. He also got a job as the obituary writer for the Winnepeg Free Press. He then moved to New York City where he lived with his distant cousin, Isabel Whitney. “Visiting Isabel's home was like entering some Tiffany cathedral,” Gordon later wrote. Gordon moved into the forty-room Whitney mansion at 12 West Tenth Street, taking over most of the top floor.

Through Isabel's patronage, Gordon was introduced to the elite of New York Society, including English actress Dame Margaret Rutherford, who had recently won an Oscar as best supporting actress for the film The V.I.P.s. Like Isabel, Rutherford and her husband, Stringer Davis, were childless, and soon Gordon was calling them Mother Rutherford and Father Stringer. Gordon soon became quite a personality in New York art and social circles.
Margaret Rutherford as "Miss Marple"
In 1961, Gordon went looking for a house in the south with the intention of moving Isabel to the warmer climate to enjoy her final days. Gordon purchased a dilapidated mansion at 56 Society Street in Charleston. Two weeks later, February 2, 1962, Isabel Whitney died in her bed in New York. When her will was read, Gordon had inherited the New York mansion on West Tenth Street, art, jewelry, furniture and stock in Edison, General Electric, Standard Oil, and Sears. All told it was more than $2 million. “I was surprised to have been left so much,” he commented.
56 Society Street
Gordon took the money, moved to Charleston by chauffeured limousine and restored the Society Street house in Ansonborough.Today Ansonborough is one of the city’s most prestigious communities, however when Gordon moved in, it was just shaking off a century of neglect. From its antebellum heyday, Ansonborough had taken a steady downward spiral so that by the 1960s, many of its mansions had been converted into tenements, flophouses, and shabby apartments. There were small corner groceries and tobacco shops. The neighborhood was a mixture of blacks, blue collar whites and a significant population of gay Charleston men - florists, hair stylists, decorators and restaurateurs.

One of Gordon's neighbors, Billy Camden, lived in Ansonborough in the 1960s. Camden was the owner of the gay bar, Camden's Tavern, in the center of the city. He claims that
The gay couples really restored Ansonborough. I was on the Board of Directors for the Ansonborough Historic Foundation - it was made of 80 percent gay men! There was a gay couple or person in almost every home. They should have called it 'Queensborough' instead .
Ansonborough’s reputation didn't rest only on the presence of a large gay population. There also were several houses of prostitution in the neighborhood. The first night in his new home Gordon was awakened at midnight by a group of drunken sailors. Seeing the lights from the chandeliers in the front room, the sailors had mistaken the newly restored home for a just-opened bordello.

Within a month Gordon had settled in his home. Gordon claims that
The invitations from would-be matchmakers kept pouring in . . . leading hostesses gave suppers that I really dreaded. Always some poor husbandless girl was purposely placed beside me at the table. When I showed no particular interest in the feminine sex, there were those who decided that I must be homosexual. 
Billy Camden described his impressions of Gordon: 
When he first came, everyone accepted him. He was small-framed, very effeminate guy with a thick English accent. At the beginning, the people connected with historic Ansonborough included him. But as soon as it got out what was going on - with all the blacks he entertained - that was the end of it! He would always be with a group of black, screaming queens. Charleston people would have nothing to do with him. He was an insult to the gay community; we were never friends.
Nicky, another Ansonborough man claimed that Gordon “patrolled Meeting Street at night. He loved black men almost as much as he liked old ladies with money.” 
John Paul Simmons & Gordon Hall
In the late spring of 1967 Gordon began a secret love affair with a black man named John-Paul Simmons. Secret because this was Charleston - the capital of slavery, the city that organized the Confederate States of America, the city that fired the first shot of the War Between the States. Because in Charleston of 1967, blacks and whites did not engage in romantic sexual affairs, particularly a homosexual affair.

For several months the two carried on their furtive courtship. John-Paul was poor, black and uneducated, a brutish, bulldog of a man. Gordon was rich, white, cultured and elite. He was frail, with fine features, gentle and quiet. An odder couple could hardly be found. But, Gordon was in love. 

On December 11, 1967, Gordon Hall arrived at John Hopkins, in Baltimore. During the five days he spent at the Gender Identity Clinic he met with seven doctors. By the end of the week Gordon was placed on estrogen tablets and told to dress as a woman immediately, in preparation for sexual reassignment surgery. He returned to Charleston and while in the house he began to dress the part of a woman. He also underwent electrolysis to eliminate body hair John-Paul began calling Gordon “Dawn” - to signal the dawn of their new life.
John Paul & Dawn Hall
Gordon's first public appearance as a woman was sitting in a car at a drive-in restaurant. Next, he went shopping at the Piggly Wiggly on Broad Street. Soon, he was making daily trips around the city in dresses and heels. However, there was a legal issue to deal with. Charleston had a city ordinance that prohibited one gender as going out in public dressed as the other. Gordon was afraid there would be an incident and he would be arrested. Gordon hired a lawyer to alert the authorities that he was going though the process of having sex change surgery so he would not be arrested.    
On September 23, 1968, after successful surgery, Gordon woke from anesthesia in room B-403 of John Hopkins Hospital as a woman - Dawn Pepita Langley Hall. 
Dawn was welcomed back by many in Charleston society who tried to understand and be sympathetic. After all, she still had a lot of money and a good family background. There were persistent rumors of her affairs with several prominent Charleston men. The dinner invitations now included seating arrangements next to eligible bachelors.

But not everyone was so accommodating. Many who had welcomed Gordon into their homes now shunned Dawn when they passed on the street or encountered her in the pews at St. Philip's church. Even so, the dissenters were in the minority . . . until Dawn and John-Paul announced their engagement. 
Wedding Day: John Paul & Dawn Langley Hall Simmons
At that time, the marriage of a black man and white woman was a crime in South Carolina. The state constitution prohibited the “marriage of a white person with a Negro or mulatto or a person who shall have one-eighth or more Negro blood.” However, in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled a similar Virginia law unconstitutional, so their marriage looked possible. Dawn hired a local African-American attorney named Benard Fielding to help obtain the license.

Charleston's first 20th century inter-racial marriage of record was set for January 22, 1969.  John-Paul was hanged in effigy and several of their dogs were poisoned. Dawn (and Gordon) had always attended St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Charleston, the oldest Anglican congregation in America south of Virginia, established in 1680. A bomb threat to the church convinced Dawn to hold the ceremony in her home on Society Street. In the Charleston News and Courier, the marriage was written up on the obituary page.

On the day of the ceremony, the local radio stations alerted listeners that Charleston's wedding of the year (or any year) was to take place. A crowd gathered on Society Street. Curious onlookers mixed on the street with dozens of reporters, everybody shouting, jeering and cheering. There was a heavy police presence, alert for any violence. Dawn recalled that “the street was packed, their bodies rippling like waves.” 

Dawn had spent an incredible amount of money in a twelve month period. The wedding, a trip to Europe, and the Ford Thunderbird she had purchased as John-Paul’s wedding gift. When he totaled that car, she bought him a second, and a year later, she purchased a third Thunderbird. Dawn refurbished her mother-in-law’s house. John-Paul also told Dawn he had decided he wanted to fish for a living, so she bought him a twenty-seven foot trawler, which he used for drunken parties.The boat ended up abandoned in the marsh along the Cooper River.

In the meantime, John-Paul was continually unfaithful and fathered an illegitimate son another white woman. He was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia, which often caused delusions and hallucinations. John-Paul began to hear voices and having conversations with a three-eyed woman from Mars he called “Big Girl.”    
Dawn Langley Hall, 1990s                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
Dawn's extravagant life proved too much for Charleston’s closeted gay community. Her interracial marriage also sparked racism in the black community. As Jack Hitt wrote: 
Typically when one crosses forbidden lines: interracial marriage, announcing one is gay, taking a lover from another religion or class, or even changing one’s sex at least there is a community on the other side waiting for you. But Dawn charged across so many borders at once that she slipped into a country where she was the only inhabitant.
In 1995, Dawn published her third memoir, Dawn: A Charleston Legend. Her first two, Man Into Woman and All For Love, had been published more than twenty years before. For several years she had been living in North Charleston in a federally subsidized housing project. She published a novel, She-Crab Soup, which managed to sell seventeen copies in its first year publication.

Dawn Pepita Langley Hall Simmons, the former Gordon Hall, died quietly on September 18th, 2000, of effects from Parkinson’s disease. The funeral took place at the chapel of the J. Henry Stuhr Funeral Home. Her body was cremated.